Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Fidel Castro

I could say so much but I choose to say this:

Is there not a profound measure of bathos, at least on the part of the British press, in describing a man thrust to power by way of revolutionary fervour as having merely 'resigned' when describing his recession from power?

I leave you with that thought.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On the C charge

If Ken Livingstone is to be believed, the congestion charge scheme in London has been a success. Earlier, on Channel Four news, the programme quoted the reduction in traffic entering the zone as being at 21%. Livingstone also lays claim to reductions in traffic density outside the zone arguing that people's habits have been modified as a result of his policies. However, from today we are left wondering quite what the 'C' does stand for.

Livingstone this afternoon announced that owners of the highest polluting vehicles entering the congestion charge zone will, from October 27, pay a daily charge of £25. He has also decided that those vehicles which release the lowest emissions - so called hybrids, the Toyota Prius is an example - will drive through the zone without charge. The remaining drivers who do not fall into either bracket will continue to pay the £8 charge. (The mayor's friends at the American embassy will presumably continue resolutely in their 'protest' at this stealth tax).

This immediately presents a problem and I shall have to consider this matter carefully given the mayor has shown a less than equanimous demeanour when challenged by opponents in recent weeks. My disposition is not such that it would easily repel an assertive phone call from Lee Jasper.

There is no escaping the fact: the congestion charge cannot remain so called. From October 27 2008 it will cease to be a congestion charge and becomes a pollution charge, carbon charge, Chelsea tractor charge call it what you will, but don't call it a congestion charge. This may not appear important to some but suspicion is never far from the door of a politician and with Livingstone's veracity seemingly in doubt he would do well to concede this point. It is conceivable that the success of this policy will be measured, not in the numbers abandoning their four wheel drives but in the numbers of those switching to low emissions cars. The inevitable consequence of this will be to increase congestion.

London releases some 800,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and it is estimated that the highest polluting cars account for only 7,500 tonnes of this output. The effect in reducing carbon may be deemed to be negligible. It would be pleasing to commend the mayor on a progressive and pioneering scheme. After all he has already held discreet talks with the mayors of several major cities, including New York, regarding London's implementation of the project. However, he would have been better advised to retain the existing £8 charge for all vehicles and applied the additional levy to those cars he sought to discourage from entering the capital. He has left himself at the mercy of those who accuse him of populism and gesture politics.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

On the benign Rowan Williams

The last time the Archbishop of Canterbury (or would simply the Archbishop of Cant suffice?) sharked his way into my consciousness was in late 2006. He is these days more often put in the shadow by the eccentric behaviour of John Sentamu, Archbishop of York. Still, in late 2006 Williams was caught racketeering in the imbroglio concerning BA ground staff's right to wear religious symbols at work. How surprised I was to learn today that in the 14 months since I last noticed him he is now not only a defender of the Church of England but also the Church of Mohammed and an advocate of Sharia Law to boot. Williams tells us that some Sharia Law in the UK seems "unavoidable". Predictably, he's somewhat vague on which aspects of Sharia he might favour. I wonder whether he's thinking of those tenets which allow death by stoning of women accused of adultery, for example? Perhaps his vagueness is to be conceded. He is not after all schooled in any sense of the word in the laws or this land or any other.

The BBC quotes Williams as saying the UK must face up to the idea that "some citizens do not relate to the British legal system." Yes, prisoners mostly. And even the rest of us when forced to grapple with words like heretofore and novation. But glibness aside quite what does he mean? Again it's difficult to say but Williams feels Muslims should not be made to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty". As far as I'm aware there is no choice to be made. Living in Britain means tacitly consenting to the laws of the land. Williams does not see it that way, arguing that where:

"there's one law for everybody and that's all there is to be said, and anything else that commands your loyalty or allegiance is completely irrelevant in the processes of the courts - I think that's a bit of a danger".

"There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some other aspects of religious law."

"What we don't want either, is I think, a stand-off, where the law squares up to people's religious consciences."

"We don't either want a situation where, because there's no way of legally monitoring what communities do... people do what they like in private in such a way that that becomes another way of intensifying oppression inside a community."

A simple reading of what the bish proposed above might be as follows:a Chelsea football hooligan murders an Arsenal fan who made libellous, profane and deeply hurtful comments about the relative merits of Steve Sidwell within his hearing. At trial the defence barrister pleads with m'lud to take into account his client's loyalty and allegiance. Reasonable?

I can't work out quite what Williams is trying to do. He may be surreptitiously trying to advance the despicable cause of religious privilege. He may be trying to incite religious hatred, knowing full well (I assume) the incendiary effect his comments would have. If so, then he should be prosecuted. Why should the Muslim community be catered for anymore than the Italian, Greek, Indian, Scottish or Brazilian communities? Each has their own system of law so each should be accommodated equally or not at all. We must ensure that every member of society is treated equally before the law. There are many who doubt this is the case presently because of our class-riven society, formalising iniquities will benefit no one.

On unsporting behaviour

Here's a future pub quiz teaser: Who is the only Premiership footballer to have been sent off for attacking a medic who was attending to his stricken team mate?